National Care Forum, Age UK question winter plan visitor ban

National Care Forum (NCF) and Age UK have urged the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to re-think a blanket ban on visitors in care homes located in local lockdown areas due to the negative impact on residents.

The organisations said it is “perverse” that DHSC’s adult social care winter plan allows circumstances where a person can be discharged from hospital into a care home without a negative Covid test yet “carefully managed visits by loved ones should cease”.

The plan outlines a blanket lockdown of visits in ‘areas of intervention’, which accounts for an around 20 per cent geographical spread of all care homes in England. NCF and Age UK estimate the ban affects around 300,000 residents and their immediate families.

NCF and Age UK called for improved Covid testing capability in care homes, including rapid saliva testing for all visitors, including friends and relatives, visiting health professionals and Care Quality Commission inspectors.

In addition, they recommended designating one person per resident as a ‘special visitor’, public liability indemnity for care providers, and investments in the built environment to minimise risks.

The duo said it is not aware of any evidence showing that carefully managed visits have been a significant risk in spreading the infection.

Furthermore, they said the bar on visits creates significant mental and physical health risks.

“The impact of taking visitors away from people on a prolonged basis has been closely observed all over the country, with people and organisations commenting on the raw reality of residents going downhill fast, giving up hope and ultimately dying sooner than would otherwise be the case,” said NCF executive director Vic Rayner and Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams (pictured).

“This is why it matters so very much and why we should think very hard indeed before intervening in a way that severs these connections,” they added.